IT certification offers steppingstone to growing career field
If a career change is on your horizon or if you just want to bump up your technology skills, consider training to become a Certified IT (Information Technology) Networking Support Professional. This area of technology offers great job opportunities, prepares individuals for advanced studies in the field, and offers an attractive annual salary.
The position of computer support specialist commanded a median annual wage of $51,470 as of May 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which notes that employment of computer support specialists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.
A growing list of support services will be needed as organizations upgrade their computer equipment and software, according to the bureau.
The job outlook for these positions is favorable, with IT networking support professionals in demand as more technology is needed, according to Lisa Hiscano, Ed.D., director of continuing and professional education at Union County College.
The county college offers a number of IT certification programs, including Cisco Certified Networking Associate and Comp TIA Network.
“The Comp TIA A-plus Hardware and Software Certification is for people interested in getting a job in these areas,” Hiscano said. “We also have certification programs that offer other applications for users. These courses are continuing education for professional development. This is not a degree program, and therefore, there are no entrance requirements. Students do need to know what’s expected of them, however, and should have computer experience.”
Hiscano said people take certification courses for various reasons, including seeking more knowledge, enhancing their professional development, or a career change.
“Their employers may also want or require this certification,” she said.
Union County College offers certification training to prepare students for jobs such as network administrator, network installer and help desk technician, or IT cable installer.
“Our Cisco program trains people for jobs such as Network Administrator and WAN Administrator, and teaches you how to design, build and maintain local, national and global networks,” Hiscano said. “The courses are a foundation of knowledge to go in and work for a company as a network administrator.”
A Comp TIA program to learn to install, maintain and upgrade versions of Windows offers support and troubleshooting for computer hardware and software, Hiscano said. “Working with networking systems, those who have completed the program demonstrate they have the foundation and acumen to start on that career path in an entry-level job,” she said. “Some people come to us with a bachelor’s degree and competency with technology. They take a certification program, then have a bachelor’s layered with industry certification.”
Classes run from 80 to 280 hours, according to different programs and requirements, Hiscano said. “Usually, the program is done in one semester or four semesters, or four months to two years,” she said.
Certification classes may be taken at a student’s own pace as well.
The adult evening courses are available for those 18 years of age and older.
“Typically, people who take the courses are interested in a career change or have a technical background and want to obtain a national certification,” she said.
Those who have taken computer-related classes in the past will likely find themselves comfortable entering an IT program, according to Bhavna Tailor, vice president of operations at Eastwick College’s Nutley location.
“In general, however, it’s not necessary and many join this field as part of a shift in careers from unrelated fields,” said Tailor, who noted that, generally speaking, those with an interest in technology and who like to solve problems are probably a good fit for a career in IT.
There is “a growing demand in the field and a strong income potential with the proper training and experience,” she said.
“As office environments increasingly become integrated with Internet and cloud-based services and the technological needs of a business expand, there will be a greater demand for support technicians to install, maintain, repair and upgrade the computer and network systems,” Tailor said. “The IT Support Technician program at Eastwick College Nutley prepares students for this demand, providing a number of different skills from network security and PC support, to fiber optics, mobile technologies and electronics.”
Tailor said the program is designed to fit different schedules depending on the student’s needs and goals.
“We offer an accelerated certificate path through the program that allows you to graduate in as little as 12 months of day classes, or 15 months of evening classes, providing the key skills and training for a student to get started in the workforce quickly,” she said.
Also, a new degree path program with additional skills and certifications for a more comprehensive training experience and enhanced job opportunities is offered.
The scope of the technician’s job is large, according to Tailor.
“In addition to being on-call for individual troubleshooting and diagnostics, they may help plan and assist with software and operating system rollouts across an organization, schedule system-wide maintenance operations and implement equipment upgrades,” Tailor said.
As computer and network systems exist in just about every industry, opportunities exist for computer support technicians within almost every type of business.
Eastwick College offers a wide range of certifications through the IT Support Technician program including Comp TIA’s A+, Network+ and Security+, which covers a number of different areas within computer support. In addition, Eastwick offers ESA 1-4 and Fiber Optics Technician, expanding the career opportunities for graduates, according to Tailor.